Crossing the 501

Story and photos
by Linda Henderson

As we traverse the 501, my eye is constantly on the outlook for interesting and inspiring sights. One thing that is readily seen no matter where we go in the Central Arkansas area are crosses. I am a follower of Christ, and these crosses we find along our travels are symbols of faith for me.

Two thousand years ago, a cross was an instrument for pain and death. But in our modern world, the cross is an enduring symbol of faith. It no longer involves terror or dread, but now is an item of comfort to the sick and hurting. What was once nothing more than a roughhewed tree is now an image of strength, grace, hope and love. No matter what your beliefs and faith system, the cross is an identifier for Christian assurance.

As we have traveled the 501, I have collected images of crosses. Some of these images have been found in the country; others grace a city’s or town’s landscapes. There are numerous types of crosses within the 501. They are found on church signs, on top of church buildings and on hilltops attesting to a congregation’s or a family’s faith. We have found crosses made of wood, stone, iron, aluminum and even ceramic tiles.

During the Easter season, many crosses are draped with purple fabric. Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, many crosses that mark the grave of a soldier are decorated with red, white and blue.

Crosses are a prominent feature in cemeteries. Older gravestones are sculpted crosses. More modern gravestones have crosses carved into them.

Crosses are found in the cityscapes. They dramatically rise above the urban cathedrals and churches. Many of the city crosses I have found as we travel are illuminated with neon lights. Some adorn the front door to welcome church members and guests. Others are found on high steeples pointing upward toward the heavens.

Country crosses can be found on the eves of old churches and standing humbly in a farmer’s field. They decorate mailboxes, are yard art in a flower bed and are painted on bird houses. One of my favorite crosses is painted on a barn. The paint is fading and the barn has seen better days, but the message continues.

Crosses in the Jacksonville area.

If you look along the highways and byways of the 501, you will find roadside memorial crosses. These little shrines are found on the site where someone’s family member perished in a sudden, unexpected and tragic death. Unlike a grave stone, these little crosses mark a spot where a loved one left this life. Commonly, there will be flowers or personal mementos at the site. As well as being a memorial to a person’s life, it also is a warning to other drivers that this spot may be a dangerous stretch of road.

Writing this article led me into researching the cross symbol. The cross is the most well known as the representation of sacrifice and salvation. It is an emblem of Jesus’ death by crucifixion on a cross.

The cross that is most familiar in the 501 is the Latin cross. It is the most prevalent with the upright a third longer than the structure beam. A plain Latin cross is the most typical cross seen in American churches.

Another style of cross that is familiar to our culture is the Celtic cross. It is similar to the Latin cross, but has a circle around the arms of the cross.

Regardless of people’s faith system or even lack of, very few can deny a historical Jesus. This man named Jesus has affected our world. He came to this earth 2000 years ago and preached love and forgiveness. He suffered a horrible death on a wooden cross.

Today, the cross serves as a powerful reminder of a sacrifice and love worth the ultimate price. And I find myself in the shadow of that cross; in its presence love has no limits.

Linda Henderson
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